Thursday, August 2, 2018

My TOUR of the Tour de France, 2018!

I have a confession to make: I went to the Tour de France this year! Yes, I was at every stage! I traveled on a REALLY TIGHT shoestring budget, in fact. I was so frugal that it's like I was still living at home. And sure, there are those who THINK they saw me at work or other places that were NOT France...all I can say is they are mistaken, or hallucinating even. I mean, just LOOK at my pictures! (A picture is worth a thousand words, right?) What more proof do you need? All I can say is that it was FANTASTIC, all I've ever dreamed of! What a wonderful Tour I had! I didn't want to say anything about me BEING there throughout becasue I wanted it to be a surprise! Still don't believe me? See for yourself!

 Stage 1: How glorious to see the mighty Tour peleton rush by! This is just after the official "start" of Stage 1 in the start town of Noimoutier-En-L'lle (don't ask me to pronounce that!) Where else would I be for the START of my FIRST Tour de France, but at the START of the first Stage? It was quite a fight to get past all the fans and out to the street I can tell you...and I can safely say there are more than a few people that went home that night talking about that crazy American. (I think they were a little bit afraid of me).
(Photo credit Tim de Walle/Getty Images Sport)


Stage 2:  The Breakaway. There I am, out en-route, cheering on the break! In the lead is Sylvain Chavanel riding for Direct Energie, along with Dion Smith (Team Wanty, back right) and Michel Gogi of Trek Segafredo (back left)......it was terribly exciting! Did you know they have Poison Ivy in France? Neither did I. But I do now. KNEW I should have brought a pair of pants.
(Photo credit Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)


Stage 3: Team Trial. Here we have Movistar on their way to a top 10 finish. I was jumping with joy watching Valverde, Quintana and Landa (all on my fantasy team) whoosh by in person! And  by the way, I could TOTALLY tell the speed difference of only having 8 riders instead of the usual 9...I mean it was like night and day to my experienced eye. I believe they were going roughly 0.17 mph slower than they would have been with 9 riders. Like I said, a HUGE difference!
(photo credit Getty Images)


 Stage 4: somewhere along the route (I have NO IDEA exactly where I was at this moment). There's just nothing else like the Pro Peloton whipping by! The sound of all those carbon wheels and carbon frames reverberating with that special sound was almost deafening at that speed
(they were right around 28.73mph coming up this slight rise...which is pretty quick).
(Photo credit Getty Images)



Stage 5: Here's the front of the Peloton in full flight (notice how strung out they are). Greg Van Avermaet is in the front wearing the Maillot Jaune. It's beautiful weather today for sure! In fact, so far we've had almost perfect weather...in face, it feels JUST LIKE BACK HOME!
(Photo credit Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)


 Stage 6: Edvald Boasson Hagen chatting with Alexander Kristoff. It's like they're ready to have tea and crumpets served to them at 30 mph! I was yelling and screaming, and just before this picture was taken Edvald looked at and then nodded at me! Or he could have been just blowing the flem out of  his nostrils. I'm going with the nod.
(Photo credit Getty Images)
 

 Stage 7: I was SO EXCITED to see America's own Lawson Craddock still in the race (rides with Cannondale Drapac, the only American team in the race)! I saw the photographer right across the road taking pictures and happened to be looking right at him and gave a little "jump"...and he took the shot. Lawson is running dead last (lanterne rouge) but makes the time cutoff day after day, all while riding with stitches above his eye and a broken shoulder (scapula). Is that tough or what! Oh rats...just got a paper cut...I'll be back in a minute, not sure if I can type anymore today. Man does that really smart! Anybody have some Hydrogen Peroxide and Neosporin WITH pain Relief handy?
(Photo credit Getty Images)



 Stage 8: Here in my select spot I'm cheering for Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who is currently back over 2 minutes from the lead. Next to him a Cannondale Drapac rider takes a call from his mom, asking if he has clean underwear on in case he were to crash and end up in the ER. Aren't all Mom's the same?
(Photo credit Getty Images)


 Stage 9: THIS is one of the stages I've been waiting for since they announced the route last year,
the fabled Cobblestones of Roubaix! I'm right on the edge of one of the beautiful yet horrible sectors of cobbles (can't remember which one...they all look the same to me). In the lead is Yves Lampaert (Quick Step), followed by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in yellow, and John Degenkolb (Trek Segafredo). They went by just a few feet from me but I could BARELY see them. I knew they were close as I could HEAR them coming with the crazy noise the bikes make hammering over the cobbles! I actually didn't even know who it was when they rode by due to the haze...(had to watch it later on TV to see what happened). You can't really see it, but I MIGHT have had my eyes closed in this picture. Maybe THAT'S why I didn't know who it was. And, I was coughing up dust-chunks for hours after the peleton and all those stupid chase cars finally went by.
(Photo Credit Getty Images)



Stage 10: Philippe Gilbert leading the breakaway! That's THE Phillipe Gilbert! I have goosebumps!
(Photo credit Getty Images)


 Stage 11: Peter Sagan of course, the greatest road racer of our generation and the 2018 Paris-Roubaix winner, AND current world road champion (for the 3rd year in a row). Here he's on the attack for green jersey points. I'm actually pretty amazed at how easy it has been for me to move between stages and get to a good spot every single day, and right where the photographers are too! Isn't that something! I bet the other race-tourists don't have it nearly as easy as I do!
(Photo credit Getty Images)


 Stage 12: Where else would I be on THIS stage but ON the world famous Alp d'Huez? I mean, come on...I'm part Irish and part Austrian...where else would I go but Switchback #7, Dutch Corner! I was welcomed with open arms (except from the Gendarme standing right next to me that I almost punched in the head accidentally in my cheering enthusiasm)...You see, I had JUST stepped over the rope barrier (turns out that's probably not a very good idea) when Tim (we're on a first name basis now) took this shot from across the road. What you don't see is moments later when the Gendarme and his friends took me to the ground like a common miscreant. ME! I mean, come ON! Can't they see that guy with the GIGANTIC FLAG running out in the road? (the peleton is only bout 60 seconds away at this point btw). Thankfully they didn't rip or otherwise damage my clothes in the melee, being as I only have 2 T-shirts and 2 sets of shorts along in this most FRUGAL of trips (in case you hadn't noticed).
(Photo credit Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)


 Stage 13: Out on the road somewhere (once again, no idea exactly where). Funny how nobody else wanted to stand where I was. You'd think I haven't been taking a shower every 6th day (or so)!
(Photo credit Bettini Photo)



 Stage 14: Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo), with some other guys behind him. I think I scared him when I leaped out of the shadows like a crazy-man. Thank goodness he didn't throat-punch me...I hear they train these guys to go for the throat to defend themselves from rabid fans (and thanks Fatty for the "throat punch" thing...maybe if this had been Levi he really WOULD have pinched me!)
(Photo credit Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)



Stage 15: Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) and Magnus Cort (Astana) attacking. I think they should have a special red shirt awarded daily to the most aggressive (in a legal non-confrontational way) fan every day. I think I'd have had a chance!
(Photo credit Getty Images)


Stage 16: I found Beelzebub (I'm behind him on the edge of the tarmac). His real name is Didi something or other...and he's been doing his Devil thing ever since I can remember. Here Team Sky leads the peloton up one of the easier climbs of the day. I'm cheering on Quintana right at that moment (the rider in blue about 6' away from me), hoping he will come alive in the Pyrenees and get back in the game. Tomorrow is the shortest road stage of the race, and includes THREE big climbs with an Hors Catagorie mountain-top finish! I'm hoping to see a SERIOUS GC shakeup tomorrow!
(Photo credit Getty Images)


Stage 16 (still): After watching the peloton roll by (see last picture) I moved on to the 2nd to last downhill (I thought it might be a great action spot) and magically I was RIGHT THERE where THE Philipe Gilbert crashed and went over the wall! Me and another spectator (in the blue shirt on my right) were the first on the scene...then one of the moto guys (in the yellow jacket behind me) jumped over and we helped get GilBil back up over the wall! What a crazy day! I was REALLY glad I was there to help!
(Photo credit Getty Images)


 Stage 17: the SHORTEST Road stage in Tour history! Only 40 miles, and the final HC climb (which is where I'm at of course) was pretty spectacular! Also it's the first time they've ever used this climb in the Tour! Here I'm running after my new HERO Dan Martin! This man knows how to SUFFER! He's the new Jens! I just LOVE THIS GUY (you know, in a Manly hero-worship way), he just NEVER QUITS FIGHTING!
 (Photo credit Getty Images)


Still Stage 17: Of course everybody knows who THIS IS! I've been rooting for Nairo Quintana for YEARS! He just hasn't been able to bring it when it counts, but TODAY he's on a solo breakaway in the lead, going not only for the Stage win but taking back some time against the top 8 riders (he was in 9th at the start of the stage). He ended up winning the stage and climbing all the way up into 5th place! WAY TO GO NAIRO! I really do think that my presence motivated him to hold on for the stage win! It's like I'm a SUPERFAN with magical powers, and maybe teams will start to request my presence along the route in strategic places in the future! Just so all the teams know, I AM available, but I'm not cheap. OK, yes, I'm cheap. Make me an offer...seriously.
(Photo credit Getty Images)



 Stage 18: Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb riding strong. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for watching a bike race! I've found that when you're AT the race IN PERSON there's no such thing as a snoozer stage (ie: a sprinters day)! I've been rooting all along for Tom to win this year...and once again, my mere presence is giving him extra energy or something! I have no idea who the people behind me are rooting for...the MAN WITH THE PLAN  just passed us and they're looking the wrong way!
(Photo credit Getty Images)


Stage 19: The peleton is CRAZY HUGE today! I can't fathom how they can ride without killing themselves and each other for more than a mile or so. It's really quite fascinating! Here I was just looking back into the heart of the peloton (note: see how I'm keeping my hands behind me, and any ropes, straps and whatnot WELL AWAY from the riders?) I'd sure hate to be THE GUY who causes a huge pileup in the peloton. I'm sure somebody would get it on camera (I'm talking about YOU Tim)!
(Photo credit Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)


Stage 20: the Time Trial! The ride of truth! Today 1st thru 4th place are all very good TT'ers, and all are fighting to be on the podium! I think Geraint Thomas (in yellow and almost 2 minutes ahead of 2nd place) is safe unless he gets hit by a meteor. It's 2nd and 3rd place that is the real battle today, with 3 guys fighting for the 2 spots. I was at the start area today as it just seemed like THE PLACE to be. Here I just wandered into a roped-off-area, and then totally photo-bombed Chris Froome! Seriously, how can they just let people wander around back here? It's like they didn't even SEE ME walking around and then standing there or something!
(Photo credit Getty Images)

And FINALLY, Stage 21: The Champs Elysees. I'm right on the corner screaming my head off, about 300 meters from the finish line. I'm wearing my TDF Yellow shirt today OF COURSE (I did the math way back before Stage 1 so that I'd end up in the Yellow today). I thought it odd that nobody else around me was wearing any of the Tour jerseys or real color whatever. How BORING! And they weren't really going crazy each lap either...sure, they cheered some but nothing like I expected. Can't remember which lap this was (it's NOT the last lap though, as the crowd did go nuts then) but there was still a breakaway about 50 meters up the road. What a GREAT way to end my
TOUR of le Tour de France, 2018!
(Photo credit Getty Images)

And so...that about wraps up MY Tour!
I'll have to do this again NEXT YEAR for SURE! 
The NBC Sports crew has NOTHING on me...I was EVERYWHERE!
Ahh...the memories!
Cheers!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

And it's all over but for the crying

Stage 21 is done and done. Kristoff wins a CLOSE sprint on the Champs. Sagan looked to be in contention but didn't really even mix it up in the last few hundred meters. That crash took a lot out of him, including a new points record he would have EASILY shattered. Then we had Taylor Phinney, sheepishly (in the morning interview before the stage) acting like he was out of it, and then BAM he's in the breakaway, and not just IN it but an integral part of it! It was looking real good, but you just knew 6 guys can't hold that pace for 7 laps, and they couldn't.

Sky safely brought G across the line, continuing the Sky dynasty. "Anybody but Foome" did win. And yet I kind of feel bad for him .We will never know how this would have turned out if he hadn't tried for the Giro/Tour double. And it's funny but proven true once again (that old saying that "you can't win the Tour today, but you can lose it"). Froome lost it in Stage 1 of all places. That errant 'off the road' crash that wasn't even his fault...he was forced off the road on that left turn, SO very nearly clipping that post (boy did he dodge a bullet there!) Giving credit where credit is due, he never whined or cried or threw blame around at his misfortune...yet his only fault in the situation was his position on the outside. And it cost him any chance of his 5th Tour victory by losing time he could never make up, on his own team-mate of all people.

So where does Sky go from here? Is G the New Steve Young, Montana suddenly put out to pasture even though he still has playing years left?  (come on...he lost the final TT to Dumolin, the WORLD CHAMP, by ONE SECOND!) (ooh..and I'm sorry to throw an NFL comparison out there, considering that I'm still boycotting them until they get their ducks in a row w/ the National Anthem....like Baseball, or Hockey..do you see ANY of those guys staying in the locker room, or taking a knee? NO!) But I guess it's the NEW NFL that I have a problem with, not the old. Froome cracked back on Stage 17 when it was on the line, and G did not. G won on the Alp (that is HUGE! And Phil said it over and over....you win on the Alp d'Huez, you win in Paris...and turns out he was RIGHT!)

Lots of great memories from this Tour (I'm currently compiling a post of pictures from all stages to post in the next few days). I have to say I TRULY enjoyed it...ALL of it.  There's just no greater sporting event in the world...the spectacle, the drama, the action, the danger, the glory...and the SCENERY! I did love during the Stage 21 broadcast they finally gave us a taste of showing what it takes to put on the NBCSports Tour for 21 days...showed inside their control booth, the TWO mobile studios, the miles and miles of cables...all the PEOPLE! SO much work...all to put in a couple hours of TV for 3 weeks. If I had faster internet (we only have lame DSL but it's cheap) I'd opt for the
NBC Gold for a year...I could watch OTHER races (GASP! Is that LEGAL?) But hey...I get a years worth out of these 3 weeks...I don't miss much I can tell you. And now that it's over, I regret any FF'ing thru the stages...who knows what pearls of wisdom I missed from the fantastic broadcasting crew they've assembled! P&P, Paul, Bobke, Christian, Jens, and Steve and Steve...truly the A team of sports broadcasting...and I have to give it to NBC for the rest of the people behind the scenes that we will never know...kudso  and well done NBC! It was another fantastic broadcast in it's entirety!

So begins the PTDS for another year...but I can get my LIFE back and get back on the bike(s) again too. Along w/ the annual PTDS is the PJDS..(Post July Depression Syndrome)...as July is also gone. We started the Tour a week late this year, and It will be August on Wednesday! Summer is just about gone all of a sudden!

Please post your memories...good and bad. My fav is I think also the Dumolin stage win and his interview after...if THAT didn't bring tears to your eyes, nothing will. The bad? I think the Gilbert crash was one of them...and then there's the interview w/ Lawson Craddock right after Stage 1...when he was so broken up he couldn't talk...and then finally eeks out "I worked so hard to get here"...man, that also brings tears to my eyes. That he FINISHED in Paris turned one of the worst moments into one of the best! Then there is the awesome memories of Dan the MAN attacking to his solo win! Never seen anybody try harder, that's for sure. I LOVE it that he was awarded the "Most Aggressive Rider" for the entire Tour, how fitting! Movistar wins the Team award, and IF there was an award for "Most Aggressive Team", I'd give that to them also! Can't take anything away from Valverde...he gave his all for his teammates Landa and Quintana!

I Still give the "lame ass" award to BMC and Ochowitz (sp?) in NOT protecting Richie Porte in Stage 9. I'd have had GVA RIGHT IN FRONT of Porte w/ TJ right behind Richie. But no...he let GVA fly to TRY to win a stage, and to also try to keep yellow (which he did...for ONE more day). BOO HISS! Why did you even BRING Porte then? You THREW HIM to the wolves when you needed GVA's guidance and experience the MOST, and lost your BEST chance at a podium finish (actually lost BOTH chances at a podium finish). We will NEVER know how Richie might have fared had he gotten thru the stage unscathed. Hell, Quintana even got thru, and he's TINY! He had Valverde with him most of the Tour. THAT whole thing still sticks in my craw, and I'll NOT be rooting for BMC next year (and seriously, does he think GVA is a true Tour GC contender? I just don't really see it).

OK. I'm tired. I can start to catch up on sleep. And getting things done that I've neglected or flat out ignored. And ride. A LOT.

Viva le Tour!

Cheers